Blog Post #1

In the spirit of starting with low expectations so I can exceed them, I have crafted the most boring title possible for this post. It’s all uphill from here.

After a midlife career change, I decided that going back to college was the best way to become a better web developer, and enrolled at Oregon State. That was three and a half years ago–it has taken me longer than I planned. In my defense, I work full-time, I have three kids, and I still have the carpet cleaning business that was my main vocation before I became a web developer. During this time the business has shrunk beyond its usefulness. It’s time for me to sell the pieces and move on.

Me, top left, in my pjs on Christmas morning

My current job, and possibly all future jobs (I’m 53), involves a lot of WordPress. Ironically, when I was searching for a job I downplayed my WordPress experience because I was worried that it looked more primitive, but when I emphasized it I got a lot more attention. I don’t think I’d say I love PHP, though I do appreciate its usefulness. I might say I love JavaScript. In any event, I think there is enough demand in those fields to last the rest of my career, so I’m leaning in to them.

My hope for this project is that it will be an opportunity for me to improve my skills in React. I have done a little work in React, most of which was creating React modules within a WordPress plugin. I am excited about the opportunity, and to tell the truth I should have been doing it all along, but there’s nothing like a deadline and teammates to get me off my kiester. I hope that this will help me to become a more versatile web developer, and open up some opportunities for me.

I am much older than the average college student. When I started school, I was worried about my ability to keep up. I decided to tackle this potential weakness with three habit improvements.

  • I stopped drinking altogether.
  • I started meditating.
  • I started exercising regularly.

I maintained the first two, but have struggled to have a regular exercise routine. When it’s light out I do walk every day. I have found it difficult to go from work -> school -> workout. It’s easier to do the first two then call it a day. I’m sure I would be better off if I exercised more, but the other two habits have been so helpful for my mental state that, if I had to choose, I’d take those two first. There have been several classes where I thought at some point that I would fail (I never did). I think meditating helped me to keep pushing through when I didn’t understand anything.

The walking where I live is very good

I love working with computers and software. I like to tinker. I have amused myself lately by automating my house. I use Home Assistant on a Proxmox server to control most of the lights and the music. My next project will be setting up my garage door so it will open when I approach the house in my car.

AI has piqued my interest as well. I have only begun to use ChatGPT to see what I can learn and accomplish there. Mostly I ask questions that I could google, but I’ve been impressed with the quality of the answers. I have found it most useful for things that I could do myself but can’t do quickly, for example “put all us states into a json file with their 5 largest cities.” I could google that data, but it would take a while, and ChatGPT can do it in a minute:

  "Alabama": ["Birmingham", "Montgomery", "Mobile", "Huntsville", "Tuscaloosa"],
  "Alaska": ["Anchorage", "Fairbanks", "Juneau", "Sitka", "Ketchikan"],
  "Arizona": ["Phoenix", "Tucson", "Mesa", "Chandler", "Glendale"],

and so on and so on

I have fiddled with using AI to modify photographs. This is a private passion, because nobody has been very interested in the images I’ve modified.

Diego Reimagined

Dall-E opens up new doors in that area, though–I’m a total novice but still fascinated. My attempts only consist of giving prompts to the AI. My son lost his young dog a few years ago, and he told me how he imagines that dog in a field chasing butterflies. Inspired by that I “made” the below image using Dall-E:

Max with his butterflies

I have enjoyed most of my classes at OSU, and of the ones I really really did not enjoy, I still think most of them were useful. At the same time, I’m glad to be almost done. I will graduate after the spring quarter.

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